Skip to comments.Wind Energy’s Dirty (Not So Little) Secret
Posted on 09/11/2019 12:34:07 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
If you follow the debate over renewable energy, fossil fuels and nuclear, you probably know the biggest selling point that proponents of solar and wind preach about. It’s clean. Wind power, in particular, pushes the fact that nothing gets burned, no carbon is generated… it’s just giant, beautiful turbine blades spinning in the breeze and cranking out electricity for the masses.
But is it true? Well… mostly. But it turns out there’s one significant exception to that rule. Those giant turbine blades break or wear out over time and then they have to be replaced. And there’s almost nothing useful to be done with them so most wind up in landfills. (NPR)
While most of a turbine can be recycled or find a second life on another wind farm, researchers estimate the U.S. will have more than 720,000 tons of blade material to dispose of over the next 20 years, a figure that doesn’t include newer, taller, higher-capacity versions.
There aren’t many options to recycle or trash blades, and what options there are is expensive, partly because the U.S. wind industry is so young. It’s a waste problem that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be: a perfect solution for environmentalists looking to combat climate change, an attractive investment for companies such as Budweiser and Hormel Foods, and a job creator across the Midwest and Great Plains.
720,000 tons of turbine blades is a lot of material to dispose of. And because they have to be lightweight, yet strong, they’re made of a rather nasty combination of resins and fiberglass. Oh, and they’re still very heavy. And big. The blades range from 100 to 300 feet in length. Moving them requires special trucks and equipment to lift, load and unload them. That gets expensive pretty quickly.
Then there’s the problem of what to do with them. Since most wind farms are put out in rural areas, the township or county may have only a single landfill in operation, and generally not a large one. They don’t want their entire landfill taken up with a pile of these gigantic blades. Most utilities wind up having to cut the blades down to a more manageable size using special equipment. That adds more cost to the process and generates more resin and fiberglass dust.
NPR interviewed one guy in Texas who has started a company aiming to recycle the blades as much as possible. But that requires stripping all the resin off and then grinding them down into pellets that can then be used to make things like decking material. But the technology is still in its developmental stages and that’s an expensive process when all you’re producing is basically fiberglass pellets.
Is this enough to sink the wind energy industry? Certainly not. But it’s something for investors to consider and an issue that the industry will have to find a way to deal with going forward. And it’s also a good reminder that whenever someone tells you they’ve found a “clean” way to produce energy, be sure to look closely. No business is ever as clean as they make it out to be.
Same with solar panels, what happens to those solar farms when they wear out.
I read a detailed study on this 20 year life problem. Given the difficulty of recycling the beasts, a 20 year life is too short to make it economical. Gas fired plants on small plots of land cost less and last a lot longer.
Another dirty little secret is that the rapid advances in efficiency and cost effectiveness of both wind and solar are coming to an end, as they approach some hard physical limits.
A fundamental physics problem. Theoretical limits.
They have a little further to improve, but the large and easy gains are already behind us.
They stay right where they are!
I mean, would you want to try to dismantle one after it has become spider central?
Any solar farms in Australia might need a nuke to finally dismantle because of the spiders.
I’m not a fan (pun intended!) of wind power because they are eyesores, a hazard to birds, and cost a fortune to maintain.
Heh,so we’ve got an intermittent energy source that’s:
1. Expensive to install
2. Expensive to maintain
3. Even more expensive to remove
All while being unreliable.
Sounds like Hillary.
More pearl clutching panty wadding nonsense. The plastics industry has been working on recycling processes and several are now in commercial production. They chop up the blades on-site to fit into semi trucks and haul them to the recycling center where 2-3 tons per day can be processed into new usable fiberglass-reinforced thermoplastic pellets and sheets:
And they’ll also do fiberglass from boats, planes and other sources in the waste stream. How much fiberglass waste just got created last week in the hurricane? That happens all the time, turbine blades last 20 years. So in reality the wind industry has provided the motivation for development of fiberglass recycling that will end up keeping not only turbine blades but other waste out of landfills.
Windmills are an icon of the left. That enables them to act on emotion, and not on reason. It’s feeeels good to force people to use windmills even though they make horrible noises and slice birds to pieces.
The end goal is to destroy our industrial civilization that is based on petroleum products. What’s a few birds if it brings down a mighty civilization?
Solar panel contain small amounts of heavy metals that we do not circulating in our water supply. Very small per panel but a lot of panels can be quite a problem.
They don’t talk about all the birds they kill. Shame on these people.
In retirement, I’ve taken up photography. My once pristine Eastern Washington is now visually polluted with countless turbines.
20 years ago had you built a house in many of the places these now are, you’d be stoned into submission by the tree huggers for blighting the open spaces.
They are not majestic. They are an eye sore.
On the other hand, old-school Dutch windmills are wonderful feats of engineering, I had the chance to go inside one there a few years ago.
wind turbine blades can Not be recycled .
Those that are serious about clean power have one choice: Nuclear.
There’s a wind farm in Bloomington, IL where I used to live. The turbines revolve all the time, in fact I never see them stopped, even on days when there is no wind.
I say BS.
Actually I was in Casper Wyoming recently where they have a lot of these, and my nephew took me to the dump to recycle some stuff and drove by a big pile of those fiberglass blades that were about to be buried right there so maybe they haven’t got the memo.
Glass windows and cats kill hundreds of times more birds than windmills. Are you proportionally more concerned about those?
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